Over the weekend, Pensacola’s new ferry boats arrived. They were funded by BP money from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. If the boats are here and ready to go, why are they being taken out of the water for almost a full year?
They’re in the water now, but soon they’ll be removed, shrink-wrapped, and stored at the Port of Pensacola until 2018.
“I think I probably feel the way that everybody does in the area,” said Jeff Barnhill, who lives in Pensacola. “It’s very exciting that they’re here, but it’s disappointing that they couldn’t get the landings done to put the boats into service.”
There’s still several steps left in the project.
“You can’t just run down to your local ferry boat dealer and look at the sticker price,” said Dan Brown, Superintendent of the Gulf Island National Seashore Park.
Pricing has changed since the ferry boat project was first commissioned in 2013. The National Park Service already built a dock at Fort Pickens for the boats, but the city and county still have docks, bathroom facilities, and shelter areas to build.
“The money came late for the city and county, plus there’s always strings attached to that money and additional review process,” said Brown. “So, for them to be able to actually get the money and get approval to spend it requires extraordinary process for them to go through so things are just taking longer than I think any of us would have anticipated.”
Even though it will be a while, Barnhill says he’ll be patient. Just looking at the boats is good enough for him.
“Oh I’m excited to see them,” said Barnhill. “Any kind of progress that you can lay your eyeballs on or reach out and touch… I mean that’s exciting.”
The ferries will be taken out of the water sometime this week. Service is expected to begin in Spring of 2018.